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I am still a komencanto so excuse me if this question is stupid but what exactly is the purpose/goal of the Universala Kongreso; what happens there? Of course, it is a way to gather the biggest possible crowd of Esperantists, but what are they supposed to do there?

I saw a few streams of the last UK in Nitra, one of which was for presenting new books, and the other ones had bad audio but seemed like they were discussing some rules or something like that, judging by the text document (that was edited in real time) that was covering most of the view. So is it mostly that — discussing rules — or am I missing something.

I've also read that it's not a recommended first Esperanto event for a beginner. If my suspicion about discussing rules is true, it seems as a good recommendation, as for a beginner it will be just… boring, plus there'll be too much technical/legal terms for a beginner to participate or even understand most of what's discussed.

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The UK is so big, that there is not its one and only purpose. People go there for various reasons.

For example

  • Meet their Esperanto friends from all over the world. Many Esperanto speakers have their Esperanto speaking friends spread around the globe. UK is the one event in a year, that allows them meet all or many of them face to face.

  • Get to know a foreign country. For many people who attend UK it's an important point to do (organized) trips in the country in which UK is taking place.

  • Meet or see important Esperanto speakers. On UK there are all or many of the stars of the Esperanto community together. If you wish to talk to them or a particular one of them, on UK you'll probably get the chance.

  • Esperanto cultural events. During UK there are lots of concerts, theater prezentations, poetry lectures in Esperanto. So if you want to enjoy Esperanto culture UK is a good place.

  • Doing Esperanto politics. During UK a lot of Esperanto politics is negociated. Some people are into that.

  • All kinds of lectures and seminars. The fakaj sekcioj of UEA, groups who deal with a specific subject in Esperanto usually have seminars, lectures, discussion groups during UK.

  • Many more.

So there are many reasons to attend UK. Now to the recommendation for beginners. Indeed there are probably better events for a beginner. All the things you can do at UK that I mentioned, are also possible on other local or regional events. Attending them is probably less expensive.

  • 1
    "Doing Esperanto politics. During UK a lot of Esperanto politics is negociated. Some people are into that." ... and some who aren't into it, nevertheless think that it's important, to make sure all the other Esperanto-related stuff that they are into, keeps happening. (I have never been to the UK, but that is how it is in other international organizations) – Max Aug 26 '16 at 9:33
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The Univerala Kongreso brings together the biggest number of Esperantists, including many of the most active and most experienced ones. It has a lot of program:

  • Organizational program: Major Esperanto associations meet up to organize their activities, discuss their plans for the future. This also involves more boring tasks like discussing an update to the statute of an organization, but a lot of it is quite interesting.
  • Cultural program: Esperanto concerts (both modern and more traditional music), Esperanto theater, touristic excursions, nacia vespero (performances, mainly music and dance, by professional artists from the host country), internacia vespero (artistic performances by participants of the congress), and much more...
  • Thematic and specialist program: Each year there is a special theme (this year it was Social justice – linguistic justice) about which there are multiple discussion groups and talks. Additionally there are specialist talks and discussion groups about many topics, whether related to a scientific field or to a particular political idea, religion, hobby etc. There is the Internacia Kongresa Universitato with scientific lectures in Esperanto. And there is the Kleriga Lundo, a collection of workshops on various topics.
  • Ceremonial program: The official opening with a welcome by the president of UEA and by the organizational team, a reception with the city mayor, and the official closing with mentionings of prize winners.

If you are still learning Esperanto, the Universala Kongreso is probably not the best choice for a first Esperanto meeting (but if it happens to be nearby, go for it). I would recommend a meeting specially geared to learners, like SES (Somera Esperanto-Studado) or NASK (Nord-Amerika Somera Kursaro), a national Esperanto meeting, or if you are younger than 40, an international youth Esperanto meeting like IJK (on a different continent each year), JES, FESTO, IJS, IJF (the last four are all in Europe) or Komuna Seminario (every year in East Asia).

4

Having been to quite a few of them myself, I concur that it's not really for beginners. The level is high in many respects, both linguistically, culturally and socially. It's friendly and you'll be welcome, but you won't "get it". The UKs have developed into some kind of archaic tradition in their own right, I'd say. There are often four or more events taking place at the same time, and the venues are usually quite big, so finding what you want is not entirely easy, even for an old-timer.

The main reason from the beginning was the political aspect of making decisions by the "komitato", which structurally is a parallel to a parliament for a country. Komitatanoj (PMs) are spread all over and the UK (Universala Kongreso) is The Place for them to officially meet to discuss and decide.

Also from the get go, the UK was about tourism and culture, because in those days travel was slow and going abroad was a fad, so many (presumably mainly) men being komitatanoj, they wanted to bring their wives. And these had to have something to do during the komitato sessions.

It's still quite gruesome to be a komitatano, to hear them say it, because they are in meeting most of the time, while other kongresanoj are having fun. Or, not so fun, really. It's quite stressful at times, trying to decide between three really interesting lectures while someone from the other side of the globe wants you to come with them for a chat. And it's expensive.

Far better to attend some of the other events like JES in Germany or Poland, IJK (Internacia Junulara Kongreso) if you're younger than 30 yrs. There's more bang for the buck. Or any of hundreds of other events. There is always some kind of Esperanto event going on somewhere. Check out Eventa Servo

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